New August 31 deadline for the last learners to return to school

The last group of learners is expected back at school on August 31. 

This information comes from an amendment published on Tuesday in the Government Gazette by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. The gazette follows an announcement made by the department on Thursday that only three grades would return to school on Monday July 6. 

This is despite a gazette by Motshekga on June 29, which indicated that grades R, one, two, three, six, 10, 11 and some schools for children with special needs would open on July 6. 

On Thursday last week the department said that, after “careful consideration”, the Council of Education Ministers had decided only Grades R, six and 11 would open on July 6, as well as some groups of learners from special education needs schools. 

The council comprises the minister, deputy minister, director general, and all the education MECs and heads of departments.

The statement said other grades would be phased back during July. As per the June 29 gazette, the last group of learners was expected back at school on August 3. 

But, according to the gazette on Tuesday, grades three, 10 and some groups of learners with special education needs will now return to school on July 20. This means some schools for learners with special education needs that had already opened on July 6 will now have to close until July 20.  

The gazette adds that grades one and two, including junior groups of learners with autism, will now open on July 27. Grades four and nine, including senior groups of learners with autism, will now open on August 17. 

The last groups to come back will be grades five, eight, and grades four and five for learners with severe intellectual disabilities on August 31.

In cases in which provincial authorities thought they couldn’t bring certain grades back to school, the report said they would have to send a report explaining their reasoning to the minister. Such reports must also provide new proposed dates. 

Eastern Cape schools did not open for the three grades that were meant to return on Monday. 

On Sunday, the Eastern Cape education department’s superintendent general, Themba Konjane, issued an instruction that grades three, six, 11 and certain groups of learners in special needs schools will return to school only on July 20. 

Konjane said this was necessitated by the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in that province.

The province added that grades four, nine and 10, as well as other groups of learners from special education schools will return on July 27; grades five, eight and other learners with special education needs will go back on August 3. Classes for grades one, two and grade one for learners with severe intellectual disabilities would start on August 10, and grade R and grade R for schools for learners with severe intellectual disabilities on August 17. 

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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